Sir Howard Davies, who’s just resigned as Director of the London School of Economics (LSE), is a classical blue-chip bloke. Largely a public servant, who’s along the way made more than a few bucks to pay off the mortgage, is widely viewed by people I rate as super-smart, fairly streetwise and profoundly decent. His departure will be the most painful thing in his professional life. Why? Simply put, he took part in the follow-on of Tony Blair’s courting of Gaddafi way too prematurely.
Tony Blair? Hate him if you wish – I don’t. He was point man in persuading Gaddafi and, more importantly, those who’ve pulled the strings anonymously in Libya for years, to stop sponsoring international terrorism and to give up nuclear aspirations. So Gaddafi came back into the international fold. Up to a point.
Today’s Financial Times (they have a paywall) has the late, and heroically astute, Professor Fred Halliday making it expertly clear that in spite of external posturing, Libya really hadn’t changed at all internally. So when it came to the LSE taking money from Gaddafi’s recently-graduated son, Seif, he smelled a great big rat. I suspect he thought that Seif Gaddafi and his LSE doctorate were a pseudo-liberal stunt. He was right. His doctoral thesis seems to be ropey. And a Dr/Mr S Gaddafi has this week been urging people to kill pro-democracy activists, just like his dad. He’s a billionaire through the theft of his country’s assets. He’s awful. And he’s headed, like his dad, for death or the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The terrible reality for quite a few folk in the UK (and of course, elsewhere) is that Tony Blair did the macropolitics thing but, as he frankly did often, implicitly implied that it was time for others to follow on while not being daft enough to do so himself. Politically wise of him, as ever. But those who followed on precipitately are screwed now. Howard Davies is the first pubic figure. And he’ll be fine, I hope, in the medium and long term. But there are plenty of others – see my post below, yet to come. And they’ll be less fine.
I watched Seif Gaddafi on a number of angry interviews last night (here’s one). He thought he was being media-smart; I actually wonder who exactly was advising him (it won’t be someone from Libya). But in fact he was exposing what a morally repugnant beast he is. And not as sophisticated as we’ve heard (and as I’d been told, see my post above). Far from it.
Right now, if they’ve any sense, and some have, journos will be following the Libyan lucre. Who took the money? And while businessmen and women will have their own anonymity and rationales, those in public appointments and politicians (of all parties) who enjoyed his ‘friendship’, hospitality and, perhaps, even money, will have nothing on their minds but fear.